Last week I was pretty excited to find out that I was number one on the list (my friend later informed me this is merely because the list was in alphabetical order, but whatever, I want my moment) of students who’d won the raffle for tickets to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular! I mean, the Radio City Christmas show is one of the staples of Christmas in NYC, like checking out the tree in Rockefeller Center or the display windows at Macy’s. Never mind that it was still a week before Thanksgiving; apparently NYC firmly believes it’s never too early to get into the Christmas spirit (I’ll have you know that the tree is already up, the window displays out, buskers playing Christmas tunes, wreaths on the buildings and light-up snowflakes dangling above the streets).
Anyways, ever since I can remember I’ve had this vague picture of Radio City and the infamous ‘Rockettes’, who I always sort of envisioned as a classier, holiday version of The Pussycat Dolls. I knew there was dancing, short skirts and eye-high kicks that looked nigh physically impossible. That being said, I think my vision of The Rockettes was skewed as everything I knew about them I learned from Val Clark of A Chorus Line (Dance ten, looks three!).
So when I took my seat in that gigantic theater, I was expecting some showy, glitzy dance numbers, something like Chicago meets The Nutcracker, but instead what I got was this watered-down clockwork concoction, too insipid to hold the attention of any person, child or adult, I know.
I think the number one problem is that while I love dance, I’ve always viewed it as an art form, using movement as a canvas to portray emotion and passion. But the Rockette style of dance, famous for its precision, revolves more around executing repetitive dance moves one after the other rather than actually using it as a medium for any sort of expression.
But despite the fact that over half the choreography consisted of synchronized walking and perfectly-unified tap step tap step’s, there were a few moments of genuinely inspired and impressive dance-movement, especially in one of the initial tap numbers.
It was more a combo of the story and the music that really did the show in. I don’t know if you’ve witnessed the ‘thrilling’ new second act in which 3-D is incorporated into the story with absolutely no purpose or effect, but I’d consider myself lucky if I hadn’t. This new installment involves dressing The Rockettes up like green Christmas bugs to march in formation for twenty minutes and repeatedly pretend to zap 3-D fairies, all in order to help a mother and her daughter re-grasp the spirit of Christmas and meaning of family by playing a good old-fashioned video game together. This is the 2010 version of family bonding.
As hard as Santa tried to convince me that it was Christmas spirit and not boredom overtaking me, he wasn’t quite compelling enough. Even as the mother of the story serenaded the audience, belting passionately something about how, “All I wanted was to find an awesome toy, but then Santa brought us here, and now I have Christmas joy!” Or something like that. You get the idea. The strongest emotions I could conjure up was an intense pity for those poor, poor Rockettes, once mighty symbols of success and poise, prancing around the stage dressed as green Power Rangers, throwing dance-punches at 3-D gingerbread men. I know Val would be just as disappointed as I was.